EDMONTON, AB -The 2014 NHL Draft was really a “scouts' draft” for the Oilers. With a limited number of picks, and none in rounds two and three, the Oilers scouting staff really had to put in a lot of miles and a lot of work to discover some diamonds in the rough.
With the 91st overall pick, the Oilers selected Swedish defenceman William Lagesson, a big, physical prospect who the Oilers hope can develop into an NHLer.
Oilers Player Development had limited access to Lagesson after he was drafted, as he did not attend the 2014 Orientation Camp. However, Lagesson is in Edmonton this year with another year of hockey under his belt.
“I think it’s a great city,” Lagesson said of his first impressions of Edmonton. “Amazing facilities and there are a bunch of good guys here. It’s very fun to be here and get to know them and compete against them.”
Lagesson is one of 10 defencemen at Orientation Camp, taking place at Rexall Place this week. Included in that 10 is Oilers 2013 seventh-overall pick Darnell Nurse, Lagesson’s defensive partner at camp.
“It’s real fun. He’s a really good player,” said Lagesson. “I’m learning a lot of things from him and that’s good.”
Also on the ice in Lagesson’s group is 2015 first-overall pick Connor McDavid. Lagesson and Nurse will likely match up against the centre a few times in camp practices.
“He’s probably the best player I’ve ever played against, so that’s cool,” said Lagesson.
The Swede is every bit of his 6-foot-2, 197-pound frame. Size and physicality are traits that helped Lagesson catch the attention of the Oilers in his draft year, as well as this season.
“When we got out and got to watching him, the biggest thing was his size,” said Oilers Senior Director of Player Development Rick Carriere. “He’s willing to play physical, he’s strong on the puck, he makes a hard pass, skating needs a bit of work. Those are things that he’s continuing to work on and he got better.”
Lagesson made the jump from Sweden this past season, playing for the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints. He posted 16 points (2-14-16) and 79 penalty minutes in 52 games. It took some time for Lagesson to adjust to the smaller ice surface of North America.
“I think to play on a smaller rink is a pretty big difference,” said Lagesson. “It’s going a little faster and more physical and not so much like skills, but it goes faster and more physical. It’s been good to be here and develop.”
Photo by Andy Devlin | Edmonton Oilers
After representing Sweden at the World Junior Championship and adjusting his game, Lagesson had a better second half.
“He was making effective plays with the puck on the breakout,” said Carriere. “He gets up the ice on the attack, he has a good shot from the point and his defending the rush improved a lot where he was protecting the inside of the ice better, angling to the outside, finishing his checks and in control, where at the start of the year he was running around a little bit. He became a little more composed that way defensively.”
Coming to North America was also a mental adjustment for Lagesson.
“When I came here, everything was new,” said the blueliner. “I went to school here and all the school system was new for me. I went to a billet family and needed to get to know them. There was a lot of things going on in the beginning, but then I got used to it. I could feel more relaxed. Maybe that’s why.”
Now at his first Orientation Camp, Lagesson is focused on improving his skating and hitting the gym to get stronger in an effort to make his next transition easier. The Oilers prospect is committed to playing college hockey at UMass-Amherst in the NCAA next season.